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Landfill battle gets heated in superior court

Attorneys for Lamar County and the E.T. Carlyle Co. squared off in Lamar superior court today in a battle that occasionally got testy. Things got tense enough that Judge Johnnie L. Caldwell issued an admonishment at the end of the nearly two-hour session. ’Let’s see if we can have some civility,’ Judge Caldwell asked of attorneys George Butler and Buddy Welch. The latest round in the now 11-year old fight over Carlyle’s plan to place a construction and demolition landfill on 312 acres off Possum Trot Road in northeast Lamar was over a settlement Butler claims the county offered in October 2007 after a conference in a court anteroom in Butts County. Today’s hearing was on Carlyle’s motion to enforce that settlement and allow an inert landfill to bring in income while other issues including the C&D landfill are litigated. At issue is a statement by attorney Newton Galloway that Butler had accurately summed up the conference in a summary delivered to Judge E. Byron Smith. Galloway represented the county at that point but has since been dismissed from the case. Carlyle claims that it has a vested right to develop a landfill – inert or otherwise – on the site and Butler said the county agreed with regard to an inert facility. Butler contended inert landfills are common on farms zoned AR. ’This whole case is about vested rights. We have maintained from day one that we don’t need zoning. They can’t get the idea of vested rights through their heads,’ he argued. Welch countered, however, that Galloway had no authority to bind the county to a settlement and presented case law to back up that claim. He also noted the commission could not have agreed to a settlement at the Butts conference because any vote has to be made within the city limits of the county seat in a legally noticed meeting, according to Georgia’s open meetings statutes. ’It is an interesting situation when the county commission says ‘˜If we did it, we were in violation of the law’,’ Butler said. Welch countered that an inert landfill has never been part of Carlyle’s design and that Lamar’s solid waste management plan requires that all landfills be lined. ’No court can zone property. An inert landfill has never been a subject of this lawsuit. An inert landfill has never been litigated. It amounts to rezoning without notice and public input. Their plans show no liner whatsoever,’ Welch argued. Judge Caldwell gave Welch until Friday, April 3 to file further briefs. He allowed Butler until April 7 to respond. The parties will reconvene on the matter at 1:30 p.m. April 17 to resolve the motion to enforce settlement and the inert landfill could become a reality at that point. The broader issue of the C&D landfill will be the subject of court proceedings June 15-18 and June 29 – July 1, if necessary. ’This issue is going to trial,’ Butler assured the judge. For more information on this hearing, see the April 7 print edition of The Herald-Gazette.

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